Saturday, May 18, 2013
I have this little three-inch piece of gray glass on my desk that reminds me of what a creative community we live in here in Waterville.
Staff photo by David Leaming SHARP: Lucy Boucher and Bernie Huebner pack boxes with scrap glass left from glass artwork made at their Stone Ridge Glass studio in Waterville. The couple are offering four-pounds of scrap glass to artists who will then make artwork for an exhibit at the Stained Glass Express on Oct. 20.
The transparent glass is about the last piece of scrap left over from Bernie Huebner and his wife, Lucie Boucher's glass scape, Cathedral Dusk, an exquisite work of art depicting mountains and evergreens mounted in a wood base and illuminated from light reflecting off a wall.
Huebner and Boucher have made 30 replicas of the limited edition piece, and all but two have been sold.
They have produced many such glass scapes, of all shapes, sizes and colors -- everything from dancing figures and holiday scenes to abstract forms. Most of their work is sold via the Internet as part of their home business, Stone Ridge Glass.
They make a pretty good living with their artistry and love what they do -- and that is evident in the exuberance with which they talk about their craft.
I had the privilege of touring their home and basement studio on Monday -- a home where works of art stare out at you from every corner, shelf, ceiling and wall.
As professional glass artists, they make stained glass lamps, dishes and wall art, but their signature works are the 3 1/2-foot-long glass scapes.
And, as with many creative thinkers, some of their ideas come to them by accident.
Which is sort of how, in mid-life, they decided to quit their jobs as public school teachers (Boucher also was a principal) and indulge in their real passion -- art.
Boucher, who always had been artistic, started dabbling in stained glass while she was writing her doctoral dissertation in literacy education and teaching at the University of Maine. She went to buy a stained glass lamp for her office one day and while walking out of the store, the shop keeper told her, "You know, you could have made this yourself."
"I laughed at her," Boucher recalled. "But I took a class and then it was a hobby and now I do it for a living."
As a teacher, Huebner was particularly good at visual arts and taught drawing, among other things. About six years ago, he and Boucher left education all together, although Boucher teaches glass work at Stained Glass Express at Railroad Square in Waterville.
She also creates pieces on commission; for instance, if someone comes into the shop and wants a lamp, or a dish or other glass piece, she makes it. Huebner explains that they work with warm glass, fused in an electric kiln.
"Using a kiln, you can fuse different pieces of glass together or shape it into molds," he says. "Warm glass is the one nobody knows much about."
But Huebner and Boucher hope to change that, with another project they devised quite by accident.
One day as they were cleaning up their studio of 115 pounds of scrap gray glass left over from their Cathedral Dusk glass scape and wondering what to do with it, Boucher got an idea.
"With fused glass, it's a travesty to throw it away," she said.
She thought about challenging other fused glass artists in Maine to make a bowl or dish or other object and submit it to them by Oct. 5. She and Huebner spread the word that they would send each interested artist four pounds of the gray scrap glass for their project, which will be on display at Stained Glass Express for two weeks. Then, on Oct. 20, a gathering for all the artists will be hosted by shop owner Janet Parkhurst, complete with champagne, hors d'oeuvres and prizes for the best pieces. Dan Kany, owner of Daniel Kany Gallery in Portland (and son of former Waterville Mayor Judy Kany, by the way) will judge.
Huebner and Boucher say they do not know others in Maine who do glass fusing and this is a great way to make that connection.
Already, 27 artists from places such as Freeport, Falmouth, Harpswell, Ellsworth, Bangor and Lisbon Falls have signed on to The Gray Glass Challenge and will submit pieces, which is pretty exciting for Huebner and Boucher. They hope those artists will get together regularly to share and discuss their work. As Huebner sees it, such gatherings are like the old salons of England, where artists or composer/musicians gathered for mutual appreciation, stimulation and criticism.
"There's still a place for a salon-type forum," he said.
While he and Boucher insist, modestly, that the glass challenge project is not about them, I beg to differ.
They are doing precisely what proponents of the creative economy in Waterville are trying to encourage -- bringing arts and cultural events to the city, which will draw people here and ultimately benefit the economy.
For that, they deserve high marks.
Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 24 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org